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Rip Van Winkle

by

Published 1896
Topics


Early film starring Joseph Jefferson.

Copied at 16 frames per second from eight 35mm prints preserved by the Library of Congress


Run time 4:29
Production Company American Mutoscope Co
Audio/Visual silent, black & white


Reviews

Reviewer: docraven98 - - March 23, 2015
Subject: Understanding This Scene
These sequences were not shot on stage, but rather on Joseph Jefferson's Buzzard's Bay estate in 1896 by the American Mutograph Company. The 1902 date on the title frame was when the copyright was secured by making a bromide print of every single frame. Jefferson was an investor in the company.

These scenes were adapted for out-of-doors shooting from the stage play. In the stage version of these scenes the "dwarves" were silent. The gesturing is fairly accurate rather than adaptations for silent film. Rip's famous toast was "Here's to your health and your family's and may they all live long and prosper."

In Irving's original story the men Rip met on the mountain top were the ghosts of Henrik Hudson's crew. In Jefferson's stage version they were dwarves. Note how they crouched. It is unclear who played these roles for the filming. When Rip finally succumbs to the liquor they provide, note that one of the actors (on the right) seems to begin removing his costume as if his scene was over.

We see Jefferson's skill at its best in the last two sequences, when Rip awakens. He reaches down to pick up his musket only to have it disintegrate...wherewith it seamlessly becomes a walking stick. The final moment when he looks out over the Hudson Valley is the subject of a painting by George Waters.

The truth is that this is a remarkable artifact of a time during the early birth of motion pictures. Jefferson was 67 when it was made and had been playing that role for nearly forty years. So, for the film, in the early scenes he is an older man playing the younger Rip. Earlier in his career the age disparity occurred when he played the old Rip. Jefferson was one of the very first important stage actors to make in film.
Reviewer: Ricardo dude - - June 20, 2009
Subject: decent penny-arcade set
Interesting penny arcade serial here. (The brevity of the "films" is probably due to the number of pictures that one can fit into a coin operated machine at a time, and so what we have here is a bunch of short "films" - sets of still pictures - that were likely used in those arcade machines.) Yeah, historically significant and all that, too.
Reviewer: i1150n - - July 27, 2007
Subject: Historically Significant
This film is important in that it captures the work of Joseph Jefferson III, a significant comic in the American stage of the 19th century. Rip Van Winkle is the role most associated with him; he debuted it in 1859 in Washington and played it for 40 years.
He was also a teacher to actor James O'Neill, the father of playwright Eugene O'Neill.
Reviewer: ERD - - March 4, 2006
Subject: Interesting Historical View
It is interesting to watch this restored, stylized motion picture made over 100 years ago. Compared to films made a decade later, the viewer can see the tremendous technilogical progress that was achieved.
Reviewer: Tamlin - - July 30, 2005
Subject: just a dream
Wolf Says" "However, what is particularly fascinating is contrasting this film with films that would come even just 5-10 years later,"

True, That's when the technological apparatus evolved, but consider as well the fifteen years from 1915-1930 where in terms of story telling the jump went from shorts to the feature form we still use today.

In mythological terms the Rip Van Winkle story is found in many cultures and dates at least to the stone age- man falls asleep-goes underhill-meets fairies- awakens to find old world gone. but the Van Winkle version is considered today somewhat outre considering how widely known it once was.

What I find interesting is the evolution of elves/lephrechans from
cutey pies of mid 20th cent. to the chthonic critters you see in the fantasy genre, RPG, books, comics etc. of today

Just guessing but I suppose in Washington Irving's day they took the tale as a cautionary, "don't be lazy" type story.
Reviewer: Wilford B. Wolf - - July 22, 2005
Subject: The Sleeper Awakens
A series of short (about 20-30 sec) scenes that depict the Irving classic "Rip Van Winkle". The first two parts appear to be shot in Edison's studio in New York, which opened up to allow in natural sunlight. The remaining reels, where Van Winkle leaves with the dwarves and drinks to oblivion, appear to be shot outside.

One of the biggest problems with films of this era is a combination of the short running time of the reel, which does not allow any sort of narrative flow to be created. Also, the notion of title cards had not come about yet, so any acting is pure pantomime and overwrought in the late 19th century manner. However, what is particularly fascinating is contrasting this film with films that would come even just 5-10 years later, and the rapid leaps and bounds in staging, camera work , and narrative structure that would occur in that time.
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